US: Inept Judiciary Aids Human Trafficking

Despite improvements in the arrests and prosecution of human traffickers, “endemic corruption and an ineffectual judicial system” in Cambodia remain problematic in the fight against trafficking, the US State Department reported Tuesday.

According to the State Depart­ment’s fourth annual “Trafficking in Persons Report,” “Cam­bodian government officials and their family members are reportedly involved in or profit from trafficking activities.”

It added: “Government action should concentrate on…removing officials, law enforcement personnel, and judicial members invol­ved in or profiting from trafficking.”

The report, however, lauded Cambodian authorities for stepping up arrests and prosecutions of traffickers.

Of the 400 trafficking-related cases investigated in 2003, the report said, 142 individuals are serving sentences ranging from 5 years to 20 years imprisonment.

Most notably, the report cited the cooperation between Cam­bod­ian authorities, specifically the police anti-trafficking unit and the US government in the arrest and deportation of three suspected US sex offenders over the past year under a new US law, which allows US citizens to be prosecuted in their home country for sex crimes committed abroad.

Heide Bronke, spokeswoman for the US Embassy, dubbed the cooperation a “landmark achievement,” as one of the arrests was the first US conviction under the new US law.

In the report, Cambodia re­tained its “Tier 2” status, a mid-level designation for governments that have shown some effort to stop trafficking.

Mu Sochua, Minister of Wo­men’s and Veterans’ Affairs, on Tuesday said Cambodia’s Tier 2 status reflected “that our commitment has yielded positive results.”

“The Ministry of Justice has to draft new laws to strengthen the existing ones regarding trafficking in persons,” she said.

In a statement accompanying the release of Tuesday’s report, the US said it would grant Cambodia $5.6 million over the next two years, to be distributed to NGOs that investigate traffickers and help victims.


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